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Speech of An Taoiseach at the 4th Annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency

Good morning

It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to Dublin and to formally open the 4th Annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency.  

On behalf of the Government, I want to extend a special welcome Executive Director, Dr. Fatih Birol, dtaff of the IEA and especially Brian Motherway of your energy efficiency unit.

This venue is an appropriate one.  Dublin Castle embodies over a thousand years of Ireland’s history. 

It is where we welcome our foreign dignitaries, host our State banquets, and inaugurate our Presidents.  For today and tomorrow it is where we will discuss issues that will affect our planet for our lifetime and beyond.

As I understand, this is the first time you have held your energy efficiency conference outside of Paris.  We are honoured to be your first external host and hope that you will enjoy your time here in Ireland.                                      

Dear friends, this is a critical time for our planet.  The decisions we make and the actions we take over the next few years will determine our future and that of the generations to come.  

A relentless focus on improving energy efficiency needs to be central to our response to climate change.  We must co-operate and collaborate with people around the world, share our learning, and find a more sustainable path to the future. 

In Ireland, we believe our long-held membership of the IEA will help us find that path.  You are at the heart of the global dialogue on energy and energy efficiency.  And you add value by advocating policies that enhance the reliability, affordability and sustainability of our energy. 

Under the leadership of Dr. Birol, your work is transforming the global energy landscape.  The IEA has become a global hub for clean energy technologies and in particular energy efficiency.

By opening your doors to emerging economies, and accepting as association members some of the biggest and fastest growing economies in the world, such as China and India, you have broadened your mandate.  Your focus on global energy security has made your flagship World Energy Outlook publication the foremost authority on energy data and analysis. 

Ireland is ready and willing to play its part in the international drive for energy efficiency.  So I was delighted to accept your invitation to act as the Honorary Patron of a new Global Commission on Energy Efficiency. 

This IEA-supported Commission provides a good opportunity to identify policies that can be implemented in a short time frame that will boost activity on energy efficiency globally. 

Much has happened here since you visited in April to launch the IEA Review of Ireland’s Energy Policies. That review acknowledged and welcomed the solid progress that Ireland has made in improving energy efficiency.  However, it also noted that exploiting the energy efficiency potential towards 2030 will require a step change in policy efforts. 

We have listened to your message.  Energy efficiency is at the core of our Climate Action Plan that we launched last Monday and it provides the step changes that are required.

This ambitious plan sets out how we intend to reduce our GHG emissions in the years ahead and integrate climate action and biodiversity into our international development and foreign policies. It will also give us cleaner air, warmer homes, better quality of life and will help create new jobs, new housing and new health of the future.

We believe it’s not about upending the system.  It’s about changing the system. 

Adapting, reforming and modernizing.  A climate revolution a bit like the digital, industrial and agricultural revolutions that went before it.  The next stage of human development. 

Climate action presents enormous opportunities.  New jobs, new business and new wealth created through renewable energy, building insulation and forestry. 

Reduced imports of fossil fuels and maybe even the possibility of Ireland becoming an electricity exporter. 

New markets for food produced sustainably, the lowest carbon footprint and the highest animal welfare standards.

Our plan recognises that continuing with the old ways of doing things is no longer acceptable.  So it identifies interventions to decouple emissions growth from economic growth at a sectoral level. 

In doing so, it paves the way for households, businesses, and Ireland’s public sector to make the difficult and often costly changes that are necessary.  The Plan will also feed into Ireland’s new National Energy and Climate Plan.

And I know that Minister Bruton will speak more about this work later this morning.                       

The narrative around climate change is changing – from prophecies of doom to talk of opportunities.  Your focus on innovation and the digitalisation of energy efficiency at today’s conference reflects this.

As you know, there are many approaches to energy efficiency that can be taken, from relatively inexpensive actions such as behavioural change at one end to deep building fabric retrofits at the other.

In between the two, there is huge potential for technology and smart solutions to be a game changer.  They can help us to better run and operate our homes, buildings and businesses by providing new tools and solutions for managing our energy use. 

The increased focus on digitalisation provides a real opportunity for Ireland given that we are one of Europe’s tech capitals.               

Finance is another theme at this conference, and this is another critical issue.  It will not be possible for any Exchequer alone to fully fund the level of expenditure on energy efficiency and the wider climate agenda that is required in the years to come.  Only by harnessing investment from both the public and private sectors can we can effectively implement the changes required.

So the financial world must adapt to the new realities of climate change.  In Ireland we see this as an opportunity – a chance to further develop our financial services sector with sustainable finance at its core while also ensuring that we have the resources required to implement change. 

We have already taken action.  For example, last October our National Treasury Management Agency raised €3 billion from the sale of its first “green bond” - the first time we have raised capital for projects with environmental benefits in this way. 

We are also working to make Ireland a leading global centre for sustainable finance for infrastructure development and climate action. 

So to conclude, I want to thank you all for coming to Dublin. We can learn from each other about how we can best advance the energy efficiency agenda.  This is a gathering of the world’s best experts and the debate you generate will help shape a global response.

I wish you every success with the conference. 

Thank you.